Another Paterson mill gone — Why?
It was reported yesterday that portions of the Venable Mill (though not identified as such in the press) had experienced partial collapse. Local residents were evacuated and the Paterson Fired Dept. and other agencies moved in to handle the situation and remain throughout the demolition that began Tuesday evening. By midday today, a large portion of the mill has already been removed.
What wasn’t reported by the media is that the mill is what is technically termed “a contributing resource” to the Great Falls National Historic Landmark District. Before the Great Falls National Park was established, the GF National Historic Landmark District (NHL) was listed by the Department of the Interior and forms the basis for the smaller boundaries of the new National Park which is surrounded by the NHL. A National Historic Landmark’s purpose is usually a higher level of national recognition, attention and hopefully protection.
While in the neighborhood I heard a variety of comments from residents and citizens who walked by many were standard and unsurprising after my (unfortunate) experiences in these kind of situations. People had no idea what this place meant or what story it told which might have aligned with us professional preservationists. Instead they narrated its unwelcome grim shadow of decay, drugs, homelessness and danger. For many they added the experience of sensation that this was just another structure, neglected and uncared for and once again was threatening the safety of the community and in the case of the residents who were evacuated, was temporarily making homeless those who already lack resources and support.
Why did the Venable Mill have to be demolished? Where does the thread of neglect begin? Mayor Jeff Jones was good to quote the previous development deal that went sour before his administration — if the deal with the developer had turned out then the mill would already be gone.